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Glossary

Passwordless authentication

What is passwordless authentication?

Passwordless authentication is a security method that allows users to log in to systems, applications, or data without entering a traditional password. It enhances user experience and security by utilizing alternative means of verification, such as biometrics, tokens, or passkeys, eliminating the need for users to remember and enter a password.

What are the types of passwordless authentication methods?

  1. Biometric authentication relies on face or fingerprint scans to authenticate users. Most modern smartphones use biometric authentication. Biometric traits are also commonly used with passkeys.
  2. Token-based authentication uses encrypted and time-limited machine-generated codes to verify a user’s identity. The tokens are mainly distributed via third-party apps, commonly known as authentication apps.
  3. One-time passwords are sent to a user’s phone or email for verification via a one-time code.
  4. Magic links or push notifications are sent to a user’s phone or email and once clicked will be automatically logged in to their account.

How does passwordless authentication work?

Passwordless authentication works by verifying the user’s identity through means other than passwords that are considered to be more secure. For instance, in biometric authentication using a passkey, the system compares the user’s biometric data with the stored template. In token-based methods, a dynamic code generated by the token is used for access. For SMS or email codes, the user enters the received code to gain access. Each method verifies the user’s identity without requiring a password.

What is the difference between passwordless authentication and multi-factor authentication?

Passwordless authentication is a way of verifying a user’s identity without using a password. Its main goal is to make the authentication process smoother and potentially more secure. On the other hand, multi-factor authentication is a security-focused approach where the user must provide two or more verification factors to gain access to a system.

Is passwordless authentication secure?

Passwordless authentication can be secure, offering enhanced protection against common password-related threats like phishing, brute force, or dictionary attacks. However, the adoption and understanding of this technology are slow, while criminals are quick to adapt and exploit vulnerabilities. Criminals can bypass passwordless authentication methods via session hijacking attacks for account takeover or exploit passwordless tokens by having physical access to an unlocked device.

How does SpyCloud help prevent passwordless authentication bypasses?

SpyCloud’s Session Identity Protection detects stolen authentication cookies so organizations can prevent session hijacking and MFA bypass. Customers can access the stolen cookies’ details, allowing teams to invalidate active sessions, locking criminals out, and preventing passwordless authentication bypasses. This proactive approach enhances account security, reduces fraud, and protects sensitive information and funds, preserving customer trust and mitigating financial and reputational damage.

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